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The Art of Winning Friends and Building Bridges

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I have come across a few people in my life who are gems but they hardly communicate with others. They are hidden gems but fail to discover themselves and communicate with others due to their introversion. Generally, the people who talk more, write less while the people who talk less, write more; and the people who talk more, listen less while the people who talk less, listen more. Of course, we cannot judge people based on external appearance. In this regard, we will discuss the art and craft of starting a conversation, making friends, and building bridges.

When you meet someone, smile and introduce yourself. Extend your hand and say ‘Hi’. Identify one specific positive trait in the person and underscore it with authenticity. You gain trust and confidence from the person. Find out his/her interests and passions and start a conversation if you know those areas. If you don’t have any knowledge in that area, express your enthusiasm to learn from the person.  If the other person is not in the mood of starting any conversation, respect the person and leave the place coolly with a smile. 

Tips to make friends

When you want to grow in your life, you must ask. When you want to ask a favor from others, you must create conversation to build a rapport. Hence, understanding the psychology of the people and appreciating their behavior will help you connect with them instantly. Here are some tips for your arsenal to initiate conversation and make friends:

  • Be passionate about the people. 
  • Observe the body language of the person. If you find it positive, make eye contact, smile, and move towards the person to start a conversation.  
  • Create a positive impression and positive vibes.   
  • Be generous to compliment people.  Avoid usage of negative words and adjectives. Instead, use positive words and the right adjectives to impact others. Mark Twain rightly remarked, “A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.”  
  • Make small talk and demonstrate your authenticity to listen and converse. 
  • Create a common ground to continue your conversation. 
  • Avoid asking personal questions about marital status and salary. Draw a line clearly and be within it before you create your conversation. 
  • Avoid asking close-ended questions that involve a one-word response. Instead, ask open-ended questions to enable the person to open up and communicate. 
  • Ask general and neutral questions. Don’t bombard with too many probing questions that sound interrogating people. 
  • Encourage them to talk about themselves. Dale Carnegie rightly remarked, “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.”  
  • Don’t offer unsolicited advice. You must build your credibility before you offer your advice to others. 
  • Choose neutral topics that suit people irrespective of gender and community. Stay away from gender, religious and political aspects to avoid controversies.  
  • Keep cultural aspects in view when you converse with strangers to avoid being misunderstood. 
  • Use your presence of mind to exit from the conversation if it is leading to controversies.  
  • If you are good at humor, use it to make the person laugh. But don’t experiment if you are not an expert in humor because it boomerangs. 
  • Stick to ethics and etiquette to create an everlasting impression on others. Your quality of conversation is more important than the quantity of conversation.

When you talk to people, you learn something from them. You can also help them by sharing your expertise and experience. When you speak more, you listen less. When you speak less, you listen more. Hence, encourage the person to speak so that you can listen. Instead of seeking your approval and validation, identify positive traits in others, enlighten and elevate them. Approve and validate them to enhance your influence and impact. 

“A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.” ―Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Life is an experiment!

I am not a party animal. I rarely socialize with others because my passion for writing books takes a lot of time. At times, I find it difficult to get along with women. When I analyzed the reasons, I realized that it is due to my military background. I served in Indian Air Force where I interacted with men, not women. I still feel shy to interact with women. I tried to interact with women but I found it challenging. Most times, I fear being misunderstood by them.

If you fail to connect with a specific stranger, don’t lose your heart. Try to converse with another stranger. Some people are not keen to converse because of their attitude, nature, and moods. They may be dis-interested to talk to you due to perceptions. 

I am not a technology expert and I am keen to update myself. Hence, when I find young people in the gym and other places, I talk to them to understand the technology and how it is revolutionizing the world. I seek their advice to connect with them. In this way, I update myself on technology and give importance to the person. I personally opine that millennials are often misunderstood as lazy people. But the fact is that they are undoubtedly smart and brilliant and follow the road less traveled.

Fear of failure, rejection, and criticism are the main reasons why people often don’t converse with others. Life is an experiment and you must learn by trial and error method. There is nothing wrong with experimenting to lead an exciting life. If you succeed, you influence others otherwise you learn a lesson. Hence, don’t hesitate to talk to strangers. However, keep the cultural and gender aspects in view when you converse with others. 

Technology cannot replace human relations

With growing technology, people are busy with their gadgets rather than interacting with others. There is less social interaction and more social media interaction. Probably the millennials presently and the people in the future will find it challenging to get along with people. It appears that friendship will become a rare commodity in the future as people make gadgets as their friends. It is time they changed their mindset by preferring human relations to digital relations. 

It is time we emphasized social interaction and created meaningful conversations to build bridges with others. To summarize, the conversation is an art and craft that can be learned easily. It is not a talent but a skill that can be honed if you are passionate about networking and building relations. Every professional must converse and communicate with others. Hence, cultivate this art and craft to connect with others instantly to influence and inspire them to excel as leaders. 

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with forty years of experience and the author of fifty books including the award-winning ‘See the Light in You’ URL: https://www.amazon.com/See-Light-You-Spiritual-Mindfulness/dp/1949003132. He is a C-Suite advisor and global keynote speaker. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications.

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